Navigating the talent crunch: How technology and retention strategies can fortify the accounting profession
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The profession faces a dwindling influx of young professionals, while a rising number of seasoned accountants are choosing to retire.
The resultant talent crunch is not only amplifying the costs of recruitment but is also leading to an environment where servicing existing clients, while continuing to grow a firm or expand its service offering, is becoming increasingly challenging.
It should be no surprise to learn from the Edge Foundation’s 2023 Skills shortages in the UK Economy bulletin that three out of the five most in-demand skills relate to the accounting profession – auditing, accounting and an understanding of key performance indicators.
This is a crisis that demands a solution beyond traditional methods and a place where technology may provide the solution – in more ways than one.
The generation gap and the recruitment crunch
Young professionals today are digitally native. They’ve grown up in an era of rapid technological advancements and are well-versed in the digital landscape.
This is a generation that not only understands the latest tech trends but expects them to be part of their work environment.
Modernising your tech stack is, therefore, not just about improving efficiency; it’s about making your firm attractive to emerging talent and helping to retain existing staff.
Technology as a tool for efficiency
While recruitment is a significant challenge, it’s not the only one. Inefficiencies within an accounting firm, such as time-consuming manual tasks, can strain existing staff and contribute to turnover.
High employee attrition can further aggravate recruitment challenges, creating a vicious circle. This is where technology comes in.
Automation, AI, and smart software solutions can significantly speed up tasks, making work less tedious and more rewarding.
This increased efficiency frees up accountants to focus on value-added services like client advisory. Not only does this enhance job satisfaction, thereby aiding in employee retention, but it can also open new revenue streams that don’t require additional headcount.
The role of specialised services in retention
As firms struggle with recruitment, one of the first things to go is often specialised services, like R&D tax claims – especially where practices experience the loss of more senior staff.
These services, however, can be a significant source of revenue and client satisfaction. When you cut such services due to “brain drain”, you risk not just immediate revenue but long-term relationships. With advancements in technology, firms don’t have to sacrifice these offerings.
Software like WhisperClaims, which is supported by a dedicated Advice Line and technical training, can fill the expertise gap, providing a guided process that allows firms to prepare R&D tax claims efficiently and robustly.
This enables practices to deliver high-value, specialised services without requiring a specialist on staff – enhancing their competitive edge.
Even where a specialist is in place, systems such as these allow for the rapid expansion of services, without the need to hire additional staff.
The perils of lagging behind
While embracing technology can bring a myriad of benefits, not adopting it can put your firm at a severe disadvantage, particularly when it comes to delivering value-added advisory services like R&D tax advice.
Not adopting technology means your firm might not only lose out on efficiency but also fall behind competitors who can provide a broader array of services to potential and existing clients.
It may also further hinder your ability to attract or retain talent, thereby exacerbating the recruitment crisis further.
While investing in new technology may seem challenging at first, the return on investment can be substantial. Digital-led practices are seeing incredible fee growth, with minimal need to recruit large numbers of staff, by making sure that existing customers are properly serviced and not being dealt with by external specialists, or simply being ignored.
Many professionals want to retain that human touch and fear that technology may degrade this. However, insightful firms who are working at the cutting edge of this area have realised that tech simply allows them to save time in the mundane parts of the process.
This allows them to offer more time and value-added support to their clients in the more nuanced and intellectually stretching parts of the process.
This is where support plays an important role – where your in-house knowledge of the intricacies of this niche area of tax might be stretched, the WhisperClaims team is there to help you via an Advice Line service that is accessible via any combination of live chat, email and telephone.
This combination of technology and scheme support means that any member of the team can pick up the delivery of the R&D tax service line in the firm; upskilling can be rapid and with the backing of the Advice Line significant risk is removed.
Put simply, your firm becomes a more attractive place to work by offering the ability for the team to be involved in the delivery of a broader set of more interesting services, by definition requiring deeper and more insightful conversations with clients, in a way that is supported by external experts.
Moreover, your ability to spread the workload across team members and ensure that expertise doesn’t walk out of the door with your next resignation is a huge benefit.
A multi-pronged approach to navigate challenging times
It’s evident that technology alone cannot solve the accounting profession’s recruitment crisis. However, it can be a significant part of a broader strategy that includes talent retention and upskilling existing staff to do more with less.
WhisperClaims and similar technology solutions offer a route through the current challenges, allowing firms to stay competitive, retain staff and attract new talent.
Already it is seeing many practices approach it as a means of alleviating the strain on recruitment, while equally allowing them to radically expand their R&D tax service.
Facing a recruitment crisis doesn’t mean scaling back your ambitions. Instead, it presents an opportunity to adapt and innovate.
With the right technology and retention strategies, your accounting firm can not only survive these turbulent times but emerge stronger than ever.